3 mistakes you make in your legal CV (and how to fix them)

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In last week’s column, I discussed strategies for writing a general counsel resume. I have received dozens of messages and additional questions. Some of these questions were about the format, length and style of the CV. I wanted to spend this week delving into the common mistakes I see in legal resumes and how to fix them.

Modernize the font and formatting of your CV

When I graduated from law school in 2003, my resume was in Garamond (a variation of Times New Roman) and my titles were formatted in column with left justification. I continued to use this model (which I acquired from career counseling services at my law school) throughout my 12 years of practice. Many legal CVs still follow this same format.

In today’s digital age, we have to abandon the resume model of the 1990s and early 2000s. On the one hand, it causes the eyes to move too far to determine where titles end and where. they begin. Second, Times New Roman and Garamond are considered obsolete. In 2015, I was quoted in a HuffPost article that referred to Times New Roman as the resume fonts sweatpants. In essence, while this is a comfortable font and often the default font, it doesn’t give the best look. Instead, use a sans serif font (Arial, Calibri, Helvetica, etc.) in your CV as there is no curvature in the letters to restrict digital readability.

In addition to using a modernized CV font, it is best to center your titles for your “Work Experience” and “Education” sections. This is because a reader’s eyes naturally look at the center of a page. I am a big believer in making titles clear as they separate sections in the resume making it easier to analyze the human eye. Consider using subsections if you have additional work experience that may differentiate you (for example, a previous career as an accountant or financial advisor). The key is to play on the psychology of the reader and make the CV as readable as possible.

Two-page CVs are the norm for lawyers

Unless you are a newbie lawyer, chances are your resume will be two pages long. Don’t try to put all the information on one page just to match this one page myth. Your resume should be as long as necessary in order to properly convey your experience. If you’ve been practicing for over 20 years, your resume may need a third page to convey your speaking engagements, publications, and board leadership experience while keeping the meat and potatoes of your resume on. the first two pages. Keep in mind that the top third of your CV (above the waterline) is top notch real estate to provide you with a track record of your career highlights and the most important career assets. sold. Think of it as the back of a book jacket that provides the summary to attract the reader. This allows the reader to have a brief introduction to the essence of who you are.

Give examples of transactions

Most legal resumes fail to provide support for key outcomes, key outcomes, and key transactions. These resumes will often have 10 to 15 point responsibilities that read like a job posting. It is not enough to say that you have prepared pleadings, taken and defended depositions, and drafted summary judgment motions. Think about the results of decisive motions, or when you’ve presided over a trial and argued a motion in limit. Consider the major transactions you have conducted or worked on – show the assessment and the impact they have had for your client (without violating attorney-client privilege). The key is to give weight to the work you have done in a summarized way with no more than four to six bullet points per role. The further back you go, the farther things go and the less detail you need. For example, if you are a partner in a law firm or a general counsel, what you did over 15 years ago as an aspiring junior partner will be much less relevant to your leadership and leadership. company if you are applying for the job of your dreams. as head of litigation. Remember that your CV should provide enough detail and context around your experience to provide a snapshot that can be further developed in an interview. It doesn’t need to include a laundry list of everything you’ve done.

When it comes to writing a legal resume, or any resume for that matter, 85% of it is a strategy: knowing what your audience is looking for in a target candidate and understanding the specific goals to reach in your resume for specific functional skill sets. . It’s a unique skill, and writing your own resume is difficult because you view it from a subjective point of view rather than the objective objective of the interviewer.

Do you have a follow-up question for me? Contact us via LinkedIn.


Wendi Weiner is a lawyer, career expert and founder of The writing guru, an award-winning resume writing services company. Wendi creates powerful professional and personal brands for attorneys, executives and C suite / board leaders for their job search and digital footprint. She also writes for major publications on alternative careers for lawyers, personal branding, LinkedIn storytelling, career strategy and the job search process. You can reach her by email at [email protected], connect with her on LinkedIn, and follow her on Twitter @thewritingguru.

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